It was 1989 when a group of determined women incorporated Dastkar Andhra (DA) and initiated its activities as an off-shoot of Dastkar Delhi. Since then, DA has woven a success story by giving more than 500 skilled cotton handloom weavers of Andhra Pradesh a scope for employment, opportunity and a purpose to use their precious hand skills to create again.
“We started our work directly with the weavers and expanded the scope of our work with the inclusion of co-operatives as our partners,” states the company.
Growth engine of Textiles industry
Setup in the backdrop of a State which engages over 200,000 weavers in the second-largest industry, i.e. the Textiles industry (after agriculture) in India, Dastkar Andhra believes the handlooms can work as an ‘engine’ to spur the prevailing scenario of the sector.
To quote one of the Founders of Dastkar Andhra, Annapurna Mamidipudi, 90 per cent of the handloom weavers live on a minimal wage per day in this huge industry. Despite producing quality goods, they do not know how to reach centralized markets. Thus, DA has taken up the responsibility to work with cooperatives to ensure that the engine is working just right.
“The nature of decentralized production and issues in linking to mainstream distant markets, we believe can be effectively addressed through the institution of co-operatives. These institutions being member-based organizations have the capacity to represent the weaver,” a company statement reads.
From marketing to advocacy to profit-sharing
In 1996 DA was incorporated as a public charitable trust with the objectives of promoting artisan industries suited to ownership by the primary producers. In addition to marketing, DA also does policy and advocacy work on behalf of weavers, holds design workshops, and imports appropriate technologies.
The frames of reference created by Dastkar Andhra and its marketing and research wing, DAMA, are value based and compassionate to weaver and environment alike with quality product as the focus. Weaving on handloom, warping and dyeing is done at individual cottages or Cooperative centres, by using only vegetable dyes and azo-free dyes.
The profit generated by the organization is shared with the weaver–producer and DAMA’s resource persons.
Trends-in-line & future-ready!
To help weavers stay in line with the latest trends, designers are in constant touch with them on design sensibilities, quality control and changing client tastes. Yet for all the blending of contemporary tastes with inherent skills and accent on innovation, the Dastkar story carries an unmistakable textile flavour of Andhra.
According to Annapurna Mamidipudi, what sets the organisation apart from the rest of the clan is its diverse team and women leadership, which helps keep them on track. And as for next steps, DA is looking for people to connect their products to new markets.
“The State of Andhra Pradesh continues to have a strong co-operative presence in the handloom sector and we continue to work to build and strengthen capacities in these institutions,” the company says.